Bringing you the world's best cafe racers, trackers, scramblers, bobbers & custom motorcycles.

CHARLIE X-RAY. Captain Kirschner’s Classic ’80 CX500 Brat Café


Posted on October 3, 2017 by Andrew in Brat, Café Racer. 15 comments

It’s no coincidence that pilots and bikes go together like jets and turbines. After all, the perfect bike on the perfect road is about a close to flying as you can get without a pilot’s licence. And for Canada’s Nic Kirschner, who’s an airline pilot by trade, there’s nothing better than taking a break from his day job of screaming through the air at high-speed to speed all weekend doing the very same thing, albeit with less hostesses and in-flight movies.

“I’m an airline pilot living in Vancouver,” says Nic. “It’s kind of expensive to live here, let alone have space for a shop. Luckily, I grew up not too far away in the suburbs where my Mom still lives. I took over the garage there about 5 years ago when I started having the time to pursue my hobbies. Since then I’ve turned the space into a wood and metal-working shop where I mostly build furniture and, of course, work on the bike”.

“I had been looking for a CX500 for a while. I love the look of the tank off the D model and the aesthetics of the motor. After a year or so of looking, the perfect donor bike popped up on Craigslist in White Rock, BC for $500. It had been sitting, mostly outside, for 15 years so it was the perfect candidate for what i wanted to do”.

“I wanted an old bike that looked good, performed well, and was reliable. I have to give credit to David Mucci for inspiring the brass S90 tank badge and guys like Cognito Moto inspiring the front end performance upgrade and making it accessible to someone like myself”.

“I think the build is pretty typical in most ways. I started by stripping the bike down completely and did a full rebuild on the motor with new rings, bearings, cam chain, valve guides and seals. I sourced an old kitchen stove off Craigslist to use for powder coating and powder coated the entire motor satin black. I wrapped the exhaust (but only to troll the exhaust wrap haters out there, of course), removed the ‘H-box’ and installed some shorty reverse cone mufflers”.

“Next, I put on some Mikuni VM carbs and pod filters with custom intakes and jetting from Murray Feldman of ‘Murray’s Carbs’, the CX500 guru on the CX500 forum. Then came some new coils, resistor-less plug caps and iridium plugs. I fabricated a custom shroud for the radiator with the stock, camshaft-driven radiator fan replaced with a Ducati electric fan”.

“The front end was swapped to a ’00 Yamaha R1 unit with dual disc brakes. It also has a custom stem, risers and push button controls from Cognito Moto. There’s an Acewell digital speedo & tach, Renthal bars and some Biltwell Whiskey grips. To finish the front off, I added some Oberon bar end mirrors, a Kustom Tech master reservoir and a Bates headlight sharing a custom mount”.

“The rear subframe was chopped and a new loop was welded into place along with new shock mounts. I inset a new LED tail light and signals in to the rear hoop, raised the rear of the tank about one inch and painted it with a Porsche aquamarine blue. Then I sourced some tank badges from a Honda S90 which were then sandblasted and treated with a black oxide to age the brass”.

“I made a new seat pan and sourced a custom leather seat; it’s showing some nice wear now with around 5000km on the bike. I also installed some Tarozzi passenger pegs, modified fenders from Cooper Smithing Co. and I fabricated some mounts with aged brass hardware to match the tank’s badges and the forks”.

“Finally, I completely rewired the bike with the Motogadget m-unit and m-button items, added electronic ignition, a new rectifier and a higher wattage stator. There’s a new electronics tray mounted under the seat to house whatever’s required and I made a battery box to hold the new Antigravity lithium battery under the rear of motor”.

“My favorite thing about the finished bike is how it rides. The bike is a blast to both rip around town and cruise on the highway. It’s the perfect commuter to my little hobby shop in the ‘burbs. The new front end handles like a dream with plenty of stopping power and the Mikunis pull super smooth in all ranges. That and of course how it looks; it came out how I was hoping it would and I never seem to get tired of looking at it”.

[ Photos by Nic Kirschner ]








  • guvnor67

    I’d love a plane, a Sopwith Camel, or a Pitts Special, or a Spitfire, or a Corsair, or even a Superfortress, or even a Stuka. Ahem. It’s good to see a modded CX, and this one has almost Air Force type colours, but, I really don’t like the seat, but that’s an easy fix. Kool.

    • martin hodgson

      I really like the seat, maybe its just seeing so many CXs with solo seats lately… I like that this has a big comfy two up seat and quality pillion pegs. As they’re such a great bike for the open road.

      The pilot link is interesting, my last two builds I’ve sold to commercial pilots and my current Matchless was previously owned by a RAAF member… is it mandatory or something for these fly boys to be bikers?!?! LOL

      • guvnor67

        It might be the colour. Flying planes would be a massive buzz, so I guess you’d need that feeling back on Terra firma!

  • the watcher

    I know they’re “worthy” machines, but I just don’t like ’em. Until now. This is smart.

    • dCarter2

      Never in my life thought I’d see as many CX customs as there are now. I have heard that the engine is rock solid reliable. Is that so?

      • guvnor67

        Just about every courier in London had one at one stage and they were used and abused beyond belief, and kept on going.

        • Brendan Kavanagh

          Until the cam chain tensioner and/or at least one big end failed.

          • guvnor67

            Ouch. Was that common, or mainly down to high abuse and ignored maintainence?

          • Brendan Kavanagh

            High mileage, in my case but the weakness was inbuilt.
            The frail cam chain tensioners were known to be a fault on early CX500s and even after Honda upgraded them, it was common practice, certainly among the couriers with whom I worked, to replace them with pattern ones as matter of course.
            Big ends could also be expected to expire as the miles stacked up.
            Less of a problem if you’re using it as a runabout but it makes a differrnce when you’re regularly clocking three
            thousand plus miles per week.
            During my time on the despatch cicuit, I only owned one CX. It used three engines, all falling to big end failure and about half a dozen cam chain tensioners.
            When the rest of it fell to bits, I moved to Kawasaki’s GT series.

          • guvnor67

            Thanx for the info! Ah yes, Kwacka GT, the other DR favourite. I only dispatched for a fortnight between jobs, based out of Twickenham and often heading to Docklands. We had a totally mad French dude on a K series Beemer who seemed to get more deliveries and more miles done than anyone else. Considering the mileage, a shaft drive bike is the only way to go (I was on my CB650 . . . .). Gotta ask, did you enjoy the work?

          • Brendan Kavanagh

            I loved it!
            I did it fot nearly four years, getting out of it at the start of my fourth winter.
            I was based, originally, in Brighton but we all quickly realised that we’d end up in London on most days, so we all signed up for various London companies as well.
            At it’s peak, I rarely went home without taking a London based job en-route!
            I could swap tales about it all day.

          • guvnor67

            That’s funny. My girlfriend was a nurse in Brighton, so at weekends that’s where I’d be! I was waiting to start a new job so despatching was filling in the gap. Anyway, it’d been cold, a bit of sleet had fallen and heading up a one way street near Covent Garden (I think), a car came straight at me out of a car park. I careered off his front right guard into a lamp post. He tried to leave and was instantly blocked off by other bikes. I hobbled up to his window and knocked him out. F@*k, deliveries! So I grabbed my saddlebags and got the videos and stuff to the drop by train, ‘cos my bike was trashed. On the way home, by train again, I felt a bit unwell. Turns out I’d broken my left wrist, a rib, and twisted my left ankle! Needless to say, that was the end of two jobs and a bike!

  • This is a very well thought out, practical, and very rideable custom CX. Just by raising the back of the tank does wonders to the line. Other items that make this an enjoyable bike for the street are the fenders and the electric radiator fan. This is a handsome bike made to ride. I’m not sure too many builds get 5,000 km put on them by the builder owner. Well done, Nic.

  • Dave Coetzee

    I think a large part of this bike’s improved lines and therefore looks, is the loss of the subframe and exact location of the new loop and shock mounts – together with all the other nice touches, like raised rear of the tank and even the brown seat that compliments the blue tank – makes this one fine ride!

  • Harold

    This is the kind of build and article that keeps me coming back to Pipeburn. The build, process and the personal nature of this project gives inspiration to customising ones own bike seem achievable.